Fall Deadline December 15
Spring Deadline The program does not admit in the spring.
Summer Deadline The program does not admit in the summer.
GRE (Graduate Record Examinations) Required.
English Proficiency Test Every applicant whose native language is not English or whose undergraduate instruction was not in English must provide an English proficiency test score and meet the Graduate School minimum requirements (
Other Test(s) (e.g., GMAT, MCAT) n/a
Letters of Recommendation Required 3

Students with a strong background in computer sciences or a related field are encouraged to apply for admission. At a minimum, the applicant should have had some programming experience, including courses in data structures and machine organization, and should have had a year of college-level mathematics at the calculus level or above. Applicants are evaluated based on their previous academic record, GRE scores, letters of recommendation, and a personal statement. All applications must be submitted online. Admission is very competitive. Aid is offered to about half of the students to whom admission is offered. Aid is usually in the form of fellowships, teaching assistantships, or research assistantships. For more information on admissions, visit the department website.

Contact with questions about admissions in the traditional M.S. or the Ph.D. programs.

Graduate School Resources

Resources to help you afford graduate study might include assistantships, fellowships, traineeships, and financial aid. Further funding information is available from the Graduate School. Be sure to check with your program for individual policies and restrictions related to funding.

Program Resources

Funding is offered to about half of the students to whom admission is offered. Funding is usually in the form of fellowships, teaching assistantships, or research assistantships.  Because computer science skills are in demand, students who are admitted without funding are often able to find graduate assistantships  on campus.  The department website provides information on funding  options and offers suggestions for those who are admitted without department funding.

Minimum Graduate School Requirements

Review the Graduate School minimum academic progress and degree requirements, in addition to the program requirements listed below.

Major Requirements


Face to Face Evening/Weekend Online Hybrid Accelerated
Yes No No No No

Mode of Instruction Definitions


Minimum Credit Requirement 51 credits
Minimum Residence Credit Requirement 32 credits
Minimum Graduate Coursework Requirement Half of degree coursework (26 credits out of 51 total credits) must be completed graduate-level coursework; courses with the Graduate Level Coursework attribute are identified and searchable in the university's Course Guide.
Overall Graduate GPA Requirement 3.00 GPA required.
Other Grade Requirements All grades must be at least AB in all required breadth courses.
Assessments and Examinations Doctoral students must complete a qualifying process, a preliminary examination, and a dissertation requirement. The qualifying process includes both completion of "breadth courses" (see Required Courses, below) as well as satisfactory completion of a depth examination in a selected focus area. The preliminary examination is an oral examination demonstrating depth of knowledge in the area of specialization in which research for the dissertation will be conducted. The dissertation requirement consists of conducting a substantial piece of original research in computer science, reporting it in a dissertation that meets the highest standards of scholarship, and explaining and defending the contents of the dissertation in a final oral examination and defense.
Language Requirements No language requirements.
Doctoral Minor/Breadth Requirements All doctoral students are required to complete a minor.

Required Courses

Additional Breadth Requirement

Ph.D. students must take at least one course from each of the bands 1, 2 and 3 listed below; the courses must be distinct from the research area of the student's qualifying exam activity. This requirement can be satisfied with 3 700-level courses, or 2 700-level and 2 500-level courses.  Grades in all courses used for breadth must be at least AB.  Details on which courses may be used for breadth are in the Graduate Program Handbook.

Band 1
Computer Architecture:
COMP SCI/​E C E  552 Introduction to Computer Architecture3
COMP SCI/​E C E  752 Advanced Computer Architecture I3
COMP SCI/​E C E  755 VLSI Systems Design3
COMP SCI/​E C E  757 Advanced Computer Architecture II3
COMP SCI 758 Advanced Topics in Computer Architecture3
Computer Networks:
COMP SCI 640 Introduction to Computer Networks3
COMP SCI/​E C E  707 Mobile and Wireless Networking3
COMP SCI 740 Advanced Computer Networks3
Computer Security:
COMP SCI 642 Introduction to Information Security3
Operating Systems:
COMP SCI 537 Introduction to Operating Systems4
COMP SCI 736 Advanced Operating Systems3
COMP SCI 739 Distributed Systems3
COMP SCI 744 Big Data Systems3
Programming Languages and Compilers:
COMP SCI/​E C E  506 Software Engineering3
COMP SCI 536 Introduction to Programming Languages and Compilers3
COMP SCI 538 Introduction to the Theory and Design of Programming Languages3
COMP SCI 701 Construction of Compilers3
COMP SCI 703 Program Verification and Synthesis3
COMP SCI 704 Principles of Programming Languages3
COMP SCI 706 Analysis of Software Artifacts3
Band 2
Artificial Intelligence:
COMP SCI 534 Computational Photography3
COMP SCI 540 Introduction to Artificial Intelligence3
COMP SCI 545 Natural Language and Computing3
COMP SCI 760 Machine Learning3
COMP SCI/​E C E  761 Mathematical Foundations of Machine Learning3
COMP SCI 766 Computer Vision3
COMP SCI 769 Advanced Natural Language Processing3
COMP SCI/​B M I  576 Introduction to Bioinformatics3
COMP SCI/​B M I  776 Advanced Bioinformatics3
Computer Graphics:
COMP SCI 559 Computer Graphics3
COMP SCI 679 Computer Game Technology3
COMP SCI 765 Data Visualization3
COMP SCI 777 Computer Animation3
Database Systems:
COMP SCI 564 Database Management Systems: Design and Implementation4
COMP SCI 764 Topics in Database Management Systems3
COMP SCI 784 Foundations of Data Management3
Human-Computer Interaction:
COMP SCI 570 Introduction to Human-Computer Interaction4
COMP SCI/​ED PSYCH/​PSYCH  770 Human-Computer Interaction3
Band 3
Numerical Analysis:
COMP SCI/​MATH  513 Numerical Linear Algebra3
COMP SCI/​MATH  514 Numerical Analysis3
COMP SCI/​E C E/​I SY E  524 Introduction to Optimization3
COMP SCI/​I SY E/​MATH/​STAT  525 Linear Optimization3
COMP SCI/​I SY E  635 Tools and Environments for Optimization3
COMP SCI/​I SY E  719 Stochastic Programming3
COMP SCI/​I SY E/​MATH/​STAT  726 Nonlinear Optimization I3
COMP SCI/​I SY E/​MATH  728 Integer Optimization3
COMP SCI/​I SY E/​MATH  730 Nonlinear Optimization II3
Theory of Computing:
COMP SCI 520 Introduction to Theory of Computing3
COMP SCI 577 Introduction to Algorithms4
COMP SCI 710 Computational Complexity3
COMP SCI 787 Advanced Algorithms3
COMP SCI 880 Topics in Theoretical Computer Science3

In addition, some offerings of COMP SCI 838 count towards the breadth requirement. Before each term, it is announced which sections do and what area/band they are in.

One course taken as a graduate student elsewhere may be counted for breadth.  A request for this must be made in writing to the GAC Chair.  The request should indicate the corresponding UW–Madison course, include a transcript showing a grade of AB or better, and suggest a faculty member who can evaluate the course.  GAC will ask this faculty member to evaluate the outside course's syllabus and other course materials and vouch for the choice of UW–Madison course.

Graduate School Policies

The Graduate School’s Academic Policies and Procedures provide essential information regarding general university policies. Program authority to set degree policies beyond the minimum required by the Graduate School lies with the degree program faculty. Policies set by the academic degree program can be found below.

Major-Specific Policies

Prior Coursework

Graduate Work from Other Institutions

Subject to faculty approval, one graduate course taken elsewhere may be used for breadth. Other than that, no credits of graduate coursework from other institutions are allowed to satisfy requirements.

UW–Madison Undergraduate

No credits from a UW–Madison undergraduate degree are allowed to satisfy requirements.

UW–Madison University Special

With program approval, students are allowed to count no more than 15 credits of coursework numbered 300 or above taken as a UW–Madison University Special student. Coursework earned ten or more years prior to admission to a doctoral degree is not allowed to satisfy requirements.


At the end of any regular (nonsummer) semester, a student is considered to be making satisfactory academic progress (SAP) if the following conditions are all satisfied:

  • Before achieving dissertator status: the student has completed at least 6 (if full load) or 3 (if part load) credits of approved courses during the semester.
  • After achieving dissertator status: the student has satisfactorily completed at least three credits of courses approved by the student’s major professor.
  • The student has removed all Incomplete grades from any previous regular semester or summer session.
  • The student has passed any required exams and procedures within designated time limits.

Any graduate student who fails to make SAP during two consecutive regular semesters (fall and spring, or spring and fall) will be dismissed from the department at the end of the subsequent summer session. Any graduate student who fails to make SAP due to missed deadlines will be dismissed from the department at the end of the subsequent summer session.


A member of the graduate advising committee must formally approve all graduate schedules each semester until a student is in dissertator status.


15 credits

Time Constraints

Students must pass the qualifying process by the end of the sixth semester.

The preliminary exam must be taken within two regular (nonsummer) semesters after the deadline for the qualifying exam.

A candidate for a doctoral degree who fails to take the final oral examination and deposit the dissertation within five years after passing the preliminary examination may by required to take another preliminary examination and to be admitted to candidacy a second time.

Doctoral degree students who have been absent for ten or more consecutive years lose all credits that they have earned before their absence.

Grievances and appeals

These resources may be helpful in addressing your concerns:

Students should contact the department chair or program director with questions about grievances. They may also contact the L&S Academic Divisional Associate Deans, the L&S Associate Dean for Teaching and Learning Administration, or the L&S Director of Human Resources.



Graduate School Resources

Take advantage of the Graduate School's professional development resources to build skills, thrive academically, and launch your career. 

Program Resources

The Department of Computer Sciences hosts many professional development opportunities including: job fairs, workshops, seminars, talks, employer information sessions, mentoring and student socials. The Department of Computer Sciences student organizations, Student-ACM (SACM) and  Women's ACM (WACM),  are active partners in providing professional development opportunities for computer sciences graduate students.

  1. Articulates research problems, potentials, and limits with respect to theory, knowledge, or practice within the field of study.
  2. Formulates ideas, concepts, designs, and/or techniques beyond the current boundaries of knowledge within the field of study.
  3. Creates research, scholarship, or performance that makes a substantive contribution.
  4. Demonstrates breadth within their learning experiences.
  5. Advances contributions of the field of study to society.
  6. Communicates complex ideas in a clear and understandable manner.
  7. Fosters ethical and professional conduct.

See Faculty on the department website.